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1927 Doll Exchange
Historical Background
Dr. Sidney L. Gulick
Eiichi Shibusawa
Mission of Friendship
Preparations in US
Receipt of Dolls in Japan
Preparations in Japan
Receipt of Dolls in US

1927 Doll Exchange
Preparations in Japan

The official farewell in Tokyo, with Viscount Shibusawa making the principal address


As a gesture of thanks and friendship for the over 12,000 Blue-eyed Dolls received from America, Japan decided to make 58 Torei Ningyo (Dolls of Gratitude) to send to America. 

The Japanese Committee on International Friendship Among Children, acting with the Department of Education, coordinated the plan to send these dolls, to be officially known as Doll Ambassadors of Goodwill. To fund the project, the Committee collected one sen (about one half cent) each from about 2.6 million school children. Miss Japan was valued at $350, and the other dolls cost $200 each.

The Friendship Dolls sent from Japan are about 33 inches tall. The very best doll makers in Japan made the dolls to be sent to America. Their gorgeous kimonos were made from the most luxurious silk found in Japan, and they were decorated exquisitely with hand-printed or delicately painted patterns.

The majority of the dolls were named after the 47 Japanese prefectures, and  6 dolls bore the names of the largest Japanese cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Kobe). Four dolls had names of the territories held by Japan in 1927: Taiwan, Chosen (Korea), Karafuto (Sakhalin), and Kanto-shu (Liaotung Peninsula, located in southern part of the province of Manchuria in China). Finally, the finest and most expensive doll, Miss Dai Nippon (Miss Japan), represented the entire empire of Japan as a present from the imperial household.

When the ambassador dolls were ready, each one went to her prefecture or city for an official farewell reception. The receptions culminated in a great farewell meeting in Tokyo on November 4, 1927. Over one thousand children and adults in attendance listened to farewell addresses by Eiichi Shibusawa and others. An eight-year-old student, in her goodbye speech to the dolls, said:

Our dear messengers, when you get to that land, please tell our real warm hearts to the American friends, and also tell them that we are thankful to have those American dolls and that they hare having a nice time since they came.

The audience sang a farewell song especially composed for the occasion.

Each Japanese Friendship Dolls came to America with a passport, gorgeous accessories, letters from Japanese children, and an illustrated booklet about Japanese Children and Dolls' Tea Parties.

The Friendship Dolls traveled to America in first-class cabins of the steamship Tenyo Maru, which left Yokohama for San Francisco in November 1927, planning to arrive on the East Coast of the U.S. by Christmas. Each doll boarded with her own steamship ticket.

When the Japanese Friendship Dolls arrived in the US, many Americans throughout the country turned out to warmly welcome these ambassadors of friendship.

Photo courtesy of Shibusawa Memorial Museum, Tokyo

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